Summer Project: A Little Something for the “Humanities Kid”

Summer starts tomorrow, sort of, which means I am getting serious about prepping for those fall classes I mentioned way back in my last post. I’m so excited to re-read my Richardson and Fielding for my Online G3 History of the English Novel course.

I spent a good chunk of time yesterday reviewing definitions of the novel: Bahktin, Hegel, Leavis, Lukács. I’m sorry, but it’s true — sitting down with all those names again was like digging into a pile of Christmas presents. And now I have a notebook full of quotations and questions marks and “expand on this” to play with.

Lilacs and Lukács -- the signs of summer

Lilacs and Lukács — the signs of summer

At times like this, I’m torn between two feelings. First, obviously, I’m giddy. If there are just eight teens out there who want to talk about why the novel, why the (long) 18th century, why England, why do we like Emma even though she is so obnoxious – I am more than ready.

But there’s also a feeling that looks a little like regret. If this is how an afternoon of class prep makes me feel, why did I leave academia in the first place? Imagine if I had done another round of interviews, pushed harder to publish that second paper on Charles II, been less geographically choosy, and so on. It all seemed so logical in my post-first-baby haze, when I was making more money freelancing part-time at home than I could dream of as a full-time assistant professor. But if I had played the long game, maybe . . . A worse-than-pointless rabbit hole of thought.

To steer out of it, I consider that the university doesn’t have sole ownership of these kinds of conversations, and if it feels that way maybe it’s because I’m not looking hard enough. (More on that some other time, and no disrespect to the university, long live its role in the maintenance of a humanistic culture.)

And if it feels that way, maybe it’s because the bridge between the university and the rest of the world has gotten a little rickety and neglected, at least when it comes to the humanities. You won’t catch me heading off on a STEM vs. liberal arts rant, but as I’ve talked with parents over the last decade about advanced humanities education for gifted students, I’ve seen that most have zero clue what that does, could, or should look like. “Astrophysics” sounds smart, but “reading” sounds like something you should have mastered a long time ago.

One consequence is that while we march our accelerated math-and-science students though a very clear, well-defined scope and sequence, those so-called “humanities kids” (some of whom are also great at math but want to spend more time elsewhere) flounder a little. And while I am all for some floundering — how much great work has come from the observations stored up while floundering? — I’m also for the chance to try your wings a little.

For those kids, I hope that’s what our advanced teen classes at G3 can offer. And for me, I hope that planning for these kids and playing around with my old toys will lead to some new ideas about where we can take humanities education from here. If anyone out there is wondering the same things, get in touch!

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Brussels Sprouts Surprise; or, Not the End of Homeschooling

My 15yo (16 in two weeks!) passes through the kitchen while I am trimming Brussels sprouts—chopping off browning ends, halving them to roast.

“What are we having for dinner?” she asks, grabbing a glass for water, the better to wash down all that Easter chocolate.

“Kung Pao Brussels sprouts,” I say. “Oooh,” she responds. We’ve had them before, and everyone liked them, even though I couldn’t find the peanuts I had Just Bought for the recipe. (I saw them several days later at the bottom of a crisper drawer. Huh?) Everyone also agreed: add tofu next time. So I am.

As I keep slicing, I recall that when I was 15 I would have said “Ooooh” very differently – more of an “Ew!” – when offered Brussels sprouts. Though my kids annoy me sometimes when they get “full” of vegetables and then pile on the bagels and candy, I can’t deny that they are much more flexible, adventurous eaters than I was as a kid. I would not have been suggesting that we eat Brussels sprouts again soon, but next time with tofu. When I was 15 I would never have foreseen cooking Kung Pao Brussels sprouts with tofu for my own pleasure, let alone for the pleasure of children related to me.

In the last 15 (16!) years a lot of unexpected things have happened, after this weekend I’m ruminating on two of the big ones. I attended the Easter vigil last Saturday, the first one since my own baptism in 2002 (the vigil is not a child-friendly event IMHO). For all kinds of reasons, I’m still surprised to wake up and find myself Catholic, which was not a destination I had ever considered until I wound up there.

As for the other thing: On Good Friday, we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a family outing, to see the incredible Habsburg exhibit currently visiting. I was in Vienna just over two years ago, touring the museum from which most of the exhibition’s pieces were taken, and to connect with that again was to wonder anew at the opportunities have fallen totally unmerited into my lap.

But that’s not the other thing. We came home from the museum, my 11yo begging me to take her to Vienna ASAP, and gathered the mail. There we found my 15yo’s acceptance letter to our state arts high school: a two-year program designed to let artistically driven, academically strong students develop their skills in an arts area they are truly passionate about. I was thinking of it as a good test drive for a full-on 4-year arts school.

This was not unexpected. Admission is little competitive: about 60% get in, which seemed safe. Still, it was confirmation that she’d be enrolling full-time in a brick and mortar school in the fall, marking the end of an era that—possibly more than being a Catholic Christian—remains one of my most unlikely detours.

Obviously, that’s homeschooling. The 11yo is already attending a very loosey goosey brick and mortar charter school, and the 15yo is taking half her classes at a community college, so I’ve had a year to ease into the not-a-homeschooling-parent lifestyle. I won’t lie to you: the quiet is nice. And so very very sorely missed.

Homeschooling: the first month

Homeschooling: the first month

Still, homeschooling has so far been the most wild and wonderful adventure I could have taken while staying on the sofa in my pajamas. As I reach the end of this phase, there are so many things I could (and probably will!) say about the transformations and lessons of the past decade, but right now I am just drinking in the last days of this time of life. Sitting with my daughter today watching a video about famous Renaissance thinkers and artists—while the Brussels sprouts roasted in the oven—I could not have been happier. When the lecturer mentioned Petrarch – “pause it!” – Leonardo DaVinci – “pause it!” – or Savonarola – “pause it!” – I was so excited to take the conversation further with her. And she indulges me, because I get pretty passionate myself sometimes, and we all deserve a chance to indulge our passions.

So my time as a homeschooling parent is coming to an end—at least, that’s the plan. But my time as a homeschooler is not. I have a few helps-for-homeschoolers I hope I’ll finally have time to type up and make available: homemade curricula, dos and don’ts, admonitions and encouragements.

Homeschooling -- the end times?

Homeschooling — the end times?

Truly, that Brussels-sprouts-shunning 15-year-old me would be astonished by all of this: the vegetables, the church, the kids, the travel, the homeschooling. The Internet, for Pete’s sake.

And speaking of the Internet: I’m also going to start teaching at Online G3, which was about the biggest homeschooling help we ever found. Jaime Smith introduced me to the idea that homeschoolers are disruptive consumers, and over my years learning about education I believe that is true. Families taking part in innovative or experimental types of education are a small, grassroots market now, but the ideas and tools they generate will have the potential to improve education for everyone. I’m excited to be a part of that, and to find out what surprising turns we all might take in the next 15 years.

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How Is Your Day Going?

Like everyone now, my days are overfull and too long. I got pneumonia in November, and with the holidays and lack of sunshine, regaining any sense of energy and purpose has been difficult. By the time I’m cooking dinner I am exhausted and — looking at a to do list that is definitely not doing to get to done – slightly demoralized.

Quite often at this time, my 15yo will check in with me.

“How is your day going, mom?” she asks. Her voice, when she talks to me, is high pitched and soft, the voice she might use with the dog, or a young cousin. She slides up close, and stops to wait for an answer. It’s a real question. It’s never “how are you,” it’s not “how was your day,” it’s “how are things right now?”

Anyone who’s parented a typical teen knows that it’s a joy just to see signs that your adolescent is going to make it through this somewhat narcissistic phase as an empathetic, thoughtful person after all.

Beyond that, however, I appreciate so much her careful turn of phrase.

How am I? Tired, discouraged, frustrated, irritable

How was my day? Disappointing, overwhelming

How is my day going? Well, right now, I’m just making dinner. I like making dinner. I like my kitchen, I like food. I like Brussels sprouts with chili paste or red rice congee, and I like anticipating my family happily digging in. So right now, my day is good.

Or maybe I’m working on a homeschool transcript for DDs arts high school application. So right now, I’m impressed with the both of us. I’m listening to music I like. I’m having some good memories about books we read, conversations we had, snuggled up on the sofa with a blanket and a puppy.

Some things never change

Some things never change

Right now, if I keep my focus tight, my day is good.

Many years ago I took a long course on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living. We learned walking meditation, sitting meditation, full body check-ins, mindful eating, resilient ways of thinking. As you might expect from the book title, many of us were coping with long-term challenges: physical or mental illnesses, difficult relationships, or just lifelong habits that sucked the joy out of life. Each of us ended up in that class because we wanted very much to learn how to live contentedly in the “full catastrophe” of life.

It was so long ago I remember very few details of the book, but one of the participants summed up his takeaway from the class in a phrase I never forgot.

He said: “What’s so bad about breakfast?”

The point, you see, was that he found himself fretting or feeling down throughout the morning, so he tried repeatedly to bring himself back to whatever he was doing at the moment. “What’s so bad about taking a shower?” he would ask himself. “What’s so bad about getting dressed?” he might say later. And rushing through his oatmeal he might stop and say “What’s so bad about breakfast?”

You’re not going to find that one on any motivational posters or yoga tote bags.

But I understood it instantly and found myself saying it over and over. Where I could never proclaim affirmations with any sincerity, I could say wholeheartedly, “what’s so bad about breakfast?” or lunch or dinner or any other daily event and immediately recollect that in that moment I was OK.

“How is your day going?” takes me there too. Sometimes what’s happening in that moment is that I’m stuck on a problem or sad about a mistake. And that’s fine. But more often than not, because that’s how life is, my day is made up of things that range from neutral to not bad.

It’s true I can ask myself that question anytime, but it’s so sweet to hear it from someone else, someone who asks softly and stands still and looks in my face, waiting for me to form an answer. More often than not, that moment alone is enough for me to say, “right now, my day is good.”

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Happy Old Year

I know everyone is saying what a horrible year 2014 was, and we didn’t miss out on all that either. But my friend Heather posted a nice reflection on the past year and it gave me a good opportunity to remember just how many times I have felt ecstatically happy or just thoroughly content in the midst of it all.

I’m posting it here because a) I enjoyed doing it and though you might too, whoever you are, b) my response was way too long to post on my wall, and c) this way I can save it.

Here, give it a try tonight, or tomorrow, or this weekend — there’s no rush. It’s from a blog called Running Hutch, and this is her graphic, not mine.

Year-End-Reflection-by-Running-Hutch

Here’s what I came up with. If you feel like sharing, tell me in the comments, or on Facebook, or on the phone, or whatever.

10 Highlights
1. The whole Listen to Your Mother experience
2. Our Disney one-day marathon
3. Seeing friends in Reno
4. Spending time with extended family in Michigan
5. Seeing Elvis Costello and the visit with our friend Michael
6. An amazing colorful MN fall
7. Some very fun outings with local friends, camping, seeing shows, just chillin (and learning what an appropriate amount of alcohol is after 40)
8. Our SD trip, especially biking the Mickelson trail
9. Going to see the husband’s new band and enjoying having that as part of our lives again
10. Seeing my girls stretch out in a school setting

10 Disappointments
1. Auditioning for a local singing group and being told that I was amazing but not right for the group.
2. Spending a big part of the first few months with an injured finger
3. Getting the flu/pneumonia
4. Visits with my parents falling through due to illness or busyness
5. Not yet adapting to the new school schedule, so that I do more work during the day and have more time to relax with the family at night. (As opposed to being with the kids all day and working at night, as in the past.)
6. Not doing as much biking, camping, and swimming as I’d hoped this summer. Violet’s “summer school” issues and having 2 families with Victoria’s friends on the block move away really made this a bummer summer when we weren’t traveling or having friends.
7. Feeling unable and unsure how to help or make any positive impact on many difficult world events.
8. I didn’t do a lot of the writing that I planned to do.
9. My exercise schemes were constantly being derailed by injury and illness.
10. My time participating in our GT co-op and GT homeschooling group really petered out on a very negative note. This has been a hard one to get over.

3 Game Changers
1. Sending Victoria to school. Just talking about that seemed to open up more thoughts about how we all wanted to spend our days. Much like our first year or two of homeschooling led to lots of thinking about how we choose to spend our time.

2. Stepping down from my last leadership role. I have run something, usually lots of somethings, since stepping out of academia and into the world of motherhood, which is truly one volunteer role after another. This spring when I quit the board of our co-op, that was it – no leadership role in anything. This was terrifying, liberating, and sad for a variety of reasons. I love it and hate it.

3. Starting work with the first brand new client I’ve had in a while (worked with the same old for a long time). It’s a great opportunity to try new things, and also a goad to consider how I see my worklife in its middle third or second half. Funny how you can spend 20 years in a career and then feel like a novice again.

3 Foci
1. Work
2. Homeschooling
3. Procrastinating

3 Things I Forgot
The question is later rephrased as “What are the 3 main areas in your life that you neglected the most?” Based on my disappointments, I think the answers are obvious:

1. My well being
2. Being in charge of my work/writing life, instead of letting it happen to me
3. Saying no

How does this inform my plans for next year:

I am still in a transitional place, seeing about Violet going to school full time next year, thinking about what new kinds of writing work I want to pursue for pay, on the heels of my recent adventures. I also do miss running something. I’ve always liked the excitement of working with others to make interesting things happen, and it’s a good way for me to contribute to my various communities. But I don’t know that I’ve found the place where I want to do that yet. The kids’ schools are an obvious place and yet I feel like I’ve outgrown that kind of organizing.

I’d like to think the first half of 2015 will be about looking at those kinds of questions, while the second half will be about acting on what I’ve learned. It may turn out, however, that the first half of 2015 will be about getting through the end of homeschooling and the second half will be about a second act for me – which is OK.

Through it all, I know better now than I did a year ago that there is no such thing as “no time for exercise,” or for sleep, or for fun. I burned out big time right around my 40th birthday because I ignored these things for so long, and it’s been hard to climb out of the hole. It seems like, for me, right now, it’s never a mistake to prioritize these things over work, homeschool, or anything else.

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Homeschool Stereotypes, with extra cheese

We are well into a school year here, one child at a public charter, one doing a complicated dance familiar to those homeschooling high school: a class at community college, a class at a local high school, some “classes” with mom and dad, some tutors and clubs and activities, and some fevered creative activity all alone.

We’ve been required to interact with the General Public much more than normal. Wait, that’s not quite right. We’re always interacting with the General Public. What’s new is that as we’ve joined some different educational circles we’ve had to circle back to the “oh, you homeschool!” conversations that seemed to fade away after a few years.

Look at us being outside, like people!

Look at us being outside, like people!

It happened again during an awkward conversation with a parent at my older daughter’s confirmation class. It’s a very hippie, liberal church – not the one we normally attend—and the woman looked like one of several veteran lefty-granola homeschool moms I’ve met over the years. She was one of those talkative people who have a habit of finishing the sentences of reticent speakers like me, with the intention of being friendly and engaged.

Sentences like “As a homeschooler my daughter hasn’t really . . .”
“ . . . been around diverse groups.”

No, that’s not quite what I was going to say.

“We’ve been homeschooling so long that . . .”
“ . . . she’s not comfortable in a classroom.”

Well, for better or worse she’s been in classrooms throughout our homeschooling experience, so no. Not that.

It was all fine and certainly people are far too busy to know what homeschooling is like if they don’t have a reason to learn. But it was an amusing reminder, again, that many people who otherwise seem simpatico have very interesting, mostly misguided, ideas of what homeschooling is about.

I was pondering this while making dinner and listening to my younger daughter – the one in school – talk about an upcoming party we are hosting for her classmates. It’s a pretty funky charter school, but to Victoria it is as institutional as she has ever experienced. The kids are nice and smart, but they’ve had six years of a lifestyle totally alien to her.

Which brings us to the pizza order.

My youngest is a very social person. She wants to make friends, and she wants to make them happy. She worries about making a good impression. And so, she told me, we could not order our usual pizza. We order from a small local shop down the street, sometime a Greek-style vegetarian, sometimes sausage and onions, sometimes BBQ. It’s a cool place, with tattoo-themed branding, possibly because all of their employees seem to be covered in them. Nevertheless, it is a step or two up from typical pizza chains.

This kind of pizza, my daughter was thinking, would be too much for the quotidian tastes of her classmates. White-bread, middle-of-the-road plebes would probably prefer Dominoes, she reasoned.

I cannot stress enough that my youngest child is one of the sweetest people on earth. She is not snobbish in her behavior or speech, and she has been a champion of inclusiveness in her classrooms this fall.

Nevertheless she has reached eleven years of age with some interesting, misguided ideas about non-homeschoolers. I can’t take any credit for her sweetness, so I won’t take too much responsibility for her strange notions about philistinism and vulgar taste in pizza when it comes to public school children.

We negotiated to a different local pizza chain that apparently doesn’t signal as much “urban homeschool hipster” (note to self: child may have career as sociologist and/or advertiser). We spent a little time talking about being yourself and not making assumptions about others.

The rest I assume she will eventually figure out on her own, like she always has.

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Running Notes, pt. 1

To make good use of my time I’ve been running (jogging? straining my hip flexors?) in a park near the high school where my 15yo homeschooler takes a Chinese class. I was thinking about starting a running or fitness blog, the way it seems briefly logical to start a blog to accompany any new endeavor these days.

In the end, I decided not to because the potential for feeling self-conscious or embarrassed seemed too high. I thought photos would make me feel silly, and my slow times and sad intervals would make me look stupid. The first day I added some slow jogging intervals to my walks, I had to force myself to keep bouncing slightly at my snail’s pace every time another Athleta-clad cougar—the kind for whom the phrase “keeping it tight” is not used ironically–came around the corner.

Little did I suspect that humiliation would look more like scraped shins, muddy knees, and several frantic text messages to my husband and daughter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When telling a story, going from beginning to end is not always the clearest route. If this story were a film it would start with me standing outside the shower, finding one twig, then another, then a third, while shaking the ponytail out of my hair. It would show my naked feet, then calves, while I hosed off dirt – and please God not poison ivy – and discovered likely future bruises. The scene would end as I discovered new tender spots and red scratches on my forearms – “Ouch!”

Only then would the story cut back to me running through a wooded park with the dawning realization that the nearest bathroom might not be near enough. A shot of my eyes shifting back and forth, realizing that what had looked earlier like dense brush and thick stands of trees was in fact a sparse collection of reedy branches and fallen logs. A sigh of frustration mingled with the sound of the streams that run under the picturesque bridges of my beautiful walking path. A shortening stride, a determined grimace, and finally, a furtive exploratory dash into a bank of small trees.

But no. I couldn’t do it. Thirty minutes til I’d be at a bathroom, tops. No problem. I emerged from the trees just as an older lady walked past, and I wondered how I looked with my t-shirt full of holes and my ill-fitting fanny pack, clambering out of the woods like an escaped convict. I moved quickly to get ahead of her.

I had started back towards my car at this point, but there was still a ways to go, and moving quickly seemed less and less an option. Finally, I saw my salvation. No, not a bathroom. A turnstile entrance into the nature center part of the park, sure to be less traveled than my running path.

The trees were not much thicker there, but the odds of avoiding another person were in my favor. I crawled back through thick brush and found a clump of thin trunks that might provide some privacy. I tossed my fanny pack aside, took a deep breath and – no. No. I had gone at least 30 years without, well, going in the great outdoors, and I would not break that streak now.

I made my way back to the path, tripping over a fallen tree and pulling a dead branch pointy end first into my chest. Unfortunately, by the time I had run this obstacle course, it was clear I was going to be peeing in that park, on purpose or otherwise. Back into the brush I went, looking for the thickest tree trunk, glancing quickly at the ground cover and thinking “Leaves of three, let it be?” Once more I tossed aside the fanny pack and braced myself for the sense of burning shame that comes only from popping a squat in a park in the middle of one of the Twin Cities’ toniest suburbs.

Reader, I saw a man about a horse. I spent a penny. I came forth from the copse victorious, empowered.

As any writer knows, the walk/run back the car was filled with ruminations on just how this narrative would flow when I got home. It would be the story of a 40-ish woman who found freedom on the trail and said yes to taking her pants off outdoors. Until I got to my car and discovered that my keys had fallen out of the fanny pack.

I’ll spare you that part of the adventure, though it involved me looking once again for likely makeshift outhouses until I gave up and only discovered my keys on the way back. By then my story of whimsical liberation had become the tragically familiar tale of an almost 45-year-old woman for whom perimenopause meant both poorly timed urgency and misplaced keys.

Cut to sweaty pick-up of daughter, an hour late. A shot of an inappropriately amused husband shaking his head. “Did you tell your co-workers that your wife peed in the woods and lost her car keys?” A long, smirking pause. “I’m not going to tell you what I told my co-workers.”

Fade out on a 40-something woman running along a wooded path in bright blue shoes and new fanny pack with an excellent zipper.

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Sister, Sister

Change is coming in our house, but we’ve managed to blithely meander through most of the summer either too busy or too relaxed to think about it. But it crept in a little today.

This is one week when neither kid has a camp, a class, a veritable summer school self imposed by repeatedly ignoring spring deadlines (but I’m not bitter). We aren’t going anywhere, and no one is visiting. Just a week to chill together.

Chill. Like by eating lots of cold stuff packed with sugar.

Chill. Like by eating lots of cold stuff packed with sugar.

Excited by the prospect, 11yo Victoria tries to initiate activities with her older sister, but 15yo Violet wants to read, write music, text friends, and draw. Kinda solitary activities.

So Victoria finally says, tentatively, during lunch, “We could role play.”

And Violet says, calling out from her reading position on the couch, “Nah, I think I’m too old for that.”

Those of us still sitting at the table are silenced, and a gloom settles over the cold fried chicken.

We eat without speaking, deep in both nostalgia and clouded projections of the future. I don’t know what Victoria is thinking, but it feels like we’ve all taken a step that we can’t take back. “Role playing”—pretend games, living utterly in a fantasy world for days at a time, whatever you want to call it—was the basic stuff of my kids’ childhood, but especially Violet. There were times at the dinner table when she seemed literally unable to stop, to come back to Earth and be herself, whoever that was. I suspect that from ages 7 to 9 she spoke in a British accent more than half the time.

ABC -- Always Be in Character

ABC — Always Be in Character

If you Google around you’ll see that drama and pretend play are supposed to peak at about 5 years, but I’d say for Violet it was more like 12. I know what’s “normal” because her fantasy realms and invented characters and identities were so real to her I took to books and Dr. Internet to see if there was something wrong.

Though I also remembered that my little sister, possibly into the double digits, wanted to be a bunny when she grew up. Maybe it’s hereditary.

By age 14 it had cooled down, but it had definitely not gone away. Still, it’s a little harder to role play when your friends are 14. And now, it may be done. This seems normal and healthy to me—especially knowing it is all channeled into notebook upon notebook of character sketches and story ideas. And there’s always D & D. I can sigh and move on, but I notice Victoria across the table–nearly under the table–with a dark expression on her face.

We go outside to talk, and she starts to sob in her open, earnest way. Never one to hide her face or swallow tears, she lets her feelings gush forth like a fire hose. I brace for it, and she tells me that she knows that her older sister is only going to keep growing up and away. Three more years and she may be gone. She leans forward in the patio chair and tells me wide-eyed that she’s afraid she’s losing her sister.

One year ago: still not to old to go everywhere in partial costume

One year ago: still not too old to go everywhere in partial costume

I’m stuck. I can only tell her the truth. First, I didn’t grow up living with my siblings every day, so I can’t honestly say I know what she’s going through. But more than that, I can’t tell her she’s wrong. I tell her about adult friends of ours who remain very close to sisters and brothers, I tell her that siblings don’t have to see each other frequently or even talk frequently to stay one of the most important people in each other’s lives. I make the mistake of starting to say that I too feel sad when I think about my girls growing up, but this threatens to transform the mild weepiness I feel watching my girl cry into big, ugly, personal tears. I stop.

Thankfully, I don’t say what is on the tip of my tongue, which is, “You sure gotta lotta nerve, girl.” Victoria is the one leaving us first, after all, to go to school.

Girl with nerve -- Exhibit A

Girl with nerve — Exhibit A

We’ve been homeschooling for nine years. My first homeschooling blog, on homeschool blogger, is so old it’s disappeared. But my 11yo wants to try something new, admittedly in part because the 15yo is growing up and away. Homechool is less of a family venture than it used to be, and more of a solitary pursuit, and that’s a change that hasn’t been sitting well with my socially oriented girl.

We’re all mostly excited for her. To tell the truth, I’m mostly excited for me, too. Mostly, I am looking forward to giving a little TLC to my own work. Mostly, I’m happy to step back from the co-ops and playdates, despite the great people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. And mostly I am not letting myself think too hard about the rest of it: the guilt over not sticking with it (we could always come back!), the worry that middle school is the worst time to dive in to classroom-based education, the suspicion that were she given to a more extraverted family she’d be a natural-born unschooler, the certainty that no public school language arts program could ever satisfy me.

Victoria, on the other hand, is already thinking about planning a dance and having a party for all the new friends she’s going to make. Like I said, she’s sure gotta lotta nerve. Good for her.

Our conversation ends with Victoria taking a deep breath and saying to herself confidently, “I know we’ll always be friends,” before going inside to slice more watermelon. She sighs and moves on, and I try to clear the sadness now shading my face as I follow her, always just a little further behind.

Oops, no, sorry. Changed my mind. We'll always be together just like this.

Oops, no, sorry. Changed my mind. We’ll always be together just like this.

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